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Genuine Effort or Trickey Dick Approach
3/2/2016 2:32:29 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch 

It’s a darn right shame how homelessness is ignored in this town. Now, that Spoleto is about to come to town the rush is on to find housing for the homeless that have taken up residence in Tent City under the Meeting Street exit over path in the City of Charleston. The Meeting Street exit is one of the major exits for tourists entering downtown Charleston. I wonder just how much of the recent effort to relocate the homeless is genuine and how much is about “protecting your image” to maintain your rating. Y’all do know about the Trickey Dick approach, right? Charleston, SC has been voted #1 by Travel Leisure for the Best US City four years in a row. Why? 

Charleston has it all. It’s a great place to wine and dine, play and stay. Golfing, beaches, shagging, bragging, dining, nightlife, horse drawn carriages, Battery, Market Place, shopping, you name it, Charleston has it all. Just a stone’s throw from Charleston is Sullivan and Kiawah Islands. Kiawah’s five star hotel, The Sanctuary, is a great attraction for the rich and famous. It’s really a breathtaking facility. The newly renovated Charleston Airport provides easy access and flight connections to almost every part of the world. Then there are the beautiful beaches and delectable foods from some of the country’s finest restaurants. While, it is all good and I love Charleston, it seems such a stark contrast to the rapidly growing population of the homelessness in Charleston and North Charleston. Are we not our brothers’ keeper?

First, there was the law to get panhandlers of the streets and now the move to get the homeless from underneath major over paths. I do agree with the safety factor of panhandling and the health aspect of the homeless living in such squalor conditions. Panhandling also ties up traffic.

Getting rid of both is one of those out of sight, out of mind situations. Let’s just hide these people and pretend they don’t exist. Poverty is real. Several problems in a city contribute to homelessness from high rates of unemployment to a lack of affordable housing. And, gentrification has contributed to an increased in homelessness and a shift in the black population to areas that are more affordable.

Homelessness is a real problem that will not simply go away by bulldozing tent cities around town. If serious attention is not given to this problem, tent cities will continue to spring up in other areas.

Charleston is known for its beauty, culture, beaches, marketplace and now its beautiful newly renovated Gaillard Music Hall. North Charleston has its Coliseum, Fine Arts Center, Boeings, Tangier Outlet and its countless hotels but they are also plagued with the problem of how to deal with homelessness.

I know no one asked me but they never do. I just like putting my two cents in. How is the old Naval Hospital being used? I heard some rumblings of how it is being abused but that is a story for a different day. Why can’t the hospital be transformed into a place to house the homeless, provide health care services, counseling and job opportunities?

The place is already sectioned off into offices that can be transformed into living quarters. The building and grounds can be maintained utilizing the homeless and they will earn monies to help pay for their stay. Day Care services can be provided while mothers find jobs and pay something back into the central fund. Once they are up on their feet, social workers and counselors can help find affordable housing so they can move out of the Naval Hospital Homeless Central Center. That’s what I call helping the homeless.

Across the bridge, West of the Ashley, the same can be done at the old Albemarle Elementary School on Magnolia Road. The building has been empty for a while and is back on the market. We really don’t have to look far for opportunities to help the homeless if we are serious.

The school has been vacant for years and currently has a community garden. The ground is extensive and plenty of room to expand the garden. I can’t think of a better opportunity to train some of the homeless about horticulture and healthy eating than to open up this facility for the homeless and provide training and job opportunities. Who knows how George Washington Carver got his start? He was born into slavery and went on to become one of the most notable horticulturists of our time. He is famous for his inventions using the peanut and invented over 100 products. It is all about opportunities.

Let’s not shuffle the homeless from under the bridge to some other location to make way for Spoleto and when the crowd is gone, we are still faced with the same age old problem of homelessness. Let’s provide real opportunities for the homeless and not just out of your face space. Who knows how many more George Washington Carvers we might have among our homeless?

Vacant buildings and warehouses dot the landscape of our cities. In North Charleston, the old sanitation building off Spruill Avenue is vacant.

I agree with the adage that we need to teach the homeless how to fish so they can provide for themselves. We don’t need to continue providing clothing for them and not a place to shower, food and no place to refrigerate and shelter without job training.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Carol Gibson Submitted: 3/3/2016
Reading this article had got me thinking the ideas here are excellent! Why can't these things be done?

Submitted By: Sammit01 Submitted: 3/3/2016
This must be a joke. Using existing privately owned buildings for a homeless squatting house invites a laundry list of issues. Didn't someone get robbed in tent city awhile back? Why are homeless people not working at the sanctuary or some of these spectacular restaurants you mentioned? These are the most entry level jobs out there and they are readily available for those looking for them. It doesn't take job training to get a job somewhere cleaning. It just takes motivation and making things happen. Citizens have given these people clothes and all the supplies that they need and it just went to waste. Get them out from under our bridges.

Submitted By: A 6th grade student Submitted: 3/3/2016
You might want to proofread your articles before publication.

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